Original Size: 7.5x10
Medium: Ink, Water-dyes, PrismaColor Pencils
Copyright Notice: Story and Image 2008 by Bob Giadrosich/Sharayah Press. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited by law.
The first of twenty illustrated original short stories collected in one volume to be presented for publication.
In this Age of Empires, the sun never set on the vast armadas of winged airships as they stretched across the skies like metallic fish floating in numeric formations. Coded voices hummed through the atmosphere; the invisible swan-song of worker bees communicating with their queens and kings and princes.
Former colonies fought for independence. Counties fought for regional dominance. Regions fought for continents, until the whole world was consumed with wealth, desire, and power. The moneymakers speculated on commodities and fortunes rose and fell for the want of a nail.
It was a sobering time, when energy became abundantly expensive and food supplies disappeared. It was an exciting time, when expeditions tamed the wild interiors of foreign lands, and the poles of the planet were traversed by brave heroes wrapped in furs and ice. It was a curious time marked by rising hemlines, mass intelligence, and instant gratification.
It was a time the world had never seen before as statesmen became politicians, politicians became entertainers, entertainers became heroes.
It was an age of advancement. Science was deified, Theology was humanized, and Glamour reigned supreme. With the death of Truth, Rome burned while the culture waltzed Matilda.
Secure in the sheltered orchards of her mind, the wall stood on the edge of where her dreams began, and along this sanctuary she followed a meandering path amidst the perfumed byways, scented by roses, lotus, and wisteria. Shaped like a nautilus shell, the wall spiraled ever inward, diminishing in size as each chamber unlocked another aspect of form, time, and space. It was ancient beyond reckoning, built long before the pharaohs entombed their mortality underneath their desert shrines.
Along its length, those locked in the walls’ embrace slumber until her brushing hand against their visage awakens them. Dickens returns from the London alleyways to pick up his quill and dips it into the inkwell. The strains of a Magic Flute sets Amadeus looking for his pile of blank composition papers. Picasso and Pythagoras square their hypotenuse and compare their right angles. Alice lies dozing by the waters edge, dappled sunlight forming a mosaic on her upturned face. Alexander is not yet Great; Socrates has yet to drink his hemlock-laced tea. Moses cries as his reed cradle bobs on the currents of the Nile.
Orpheus plucks his lyre and sings,
"Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring."
What is the price of folly, she questions, when a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse and there are ditches on both sides of the road? What is the worth of wonder, she asks, when madness shuffles in, quiet as a kitten and deadly with locomotive breath? What is the cost of beauty, she speculates, when the sacred and the profane are one and the same? When the threshold of eternity gestures, would one leap into the unknown abyss or choose to stay in the familiar shell of decay and deceit?
Ever inward, the garden path grows smaller, and smaller still. Night birds serenade, hidden by the holly and ivy which create a living tunnel through which she passes.
Whispers of foxfire trail around her, half-remembered from the time when she was a child, a homemade faerie ward resting upon the window sill to guard against night noises.
Evening comes, and the crescent moon casts its silver light, her faint shadow on the moss-encrusted flagstones beckoning her forward. She has been here at the cusp many times before, only to rein in the bridle of her hearts’ desire, always returning to the outer realm, but now, with each new moment independent of the one before, Wishes sprout wings and leaves Reason earthbound below. Through the last gate, and her natural sight opens up and expands until the vision is past, present, and future. A breeze passes by bearing the discordant notes of distant chimes.
Above, a deep blue sky blazes as the novas herald their fairest sibling, "Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima! Hail Eärendil brightest of the stars!" Beneath, jade green fields of unkept winter wheat.
Deeper still, she wanders, neither lost, nor forgotten. In a nearby grove of aspen and juniper, silence descends on Titania’s court as they watch her passing; a lone figure on the crest of a hill silhouetted against the blushing clouds. Just over the horizon Prometheus rides with the moving dawn, an orb of fire in his thieving hand.
A half-smile stroking her amber lips, Pandora stirs once more and wipes the sleep from her eyes.